Reaching its 20-year mark, Project Ezrah, started in 2001, is preparing to work with the next generation of lay leaders to continue to move the organization forward. Dani Secemski, owner of Glatt Express and Lazy Bean Cafe, and Rachel Krich, executive director of Project Ezrah, are teaming up to launch the Project Ezrah Young Leadership Council (YLC).
Targeting professionals under the age of 35 from around the Bergen County area, the YLC aims to teach and mentor young leaders. “We’re looking for people who are passionate about giving back to the community, seeing it grow and helping out,” said Secemski, YLC chair.
Project Ezrah is a local community-supported nonprofit organization that provides, among other things, financial literacy and support, education and job development. “If you need help,” said Krich, “we work with the whole situation.” If someone is faced with a financial emergency, for example, they are provided not only with immediate help, but assistance with learning how to budget appropriately as well. “The goal is to get your life back in order so that you eventually don’t need our services,” she explained.
When Krich moved to the area in 2007, the buzz of Project Ezrah was “in the air.” She began working for the organization in 2020, and as the generation from the inception of Project Ezrah grows older, she knows that it is becoming increasingly essential for the younger demographic to support and be aware of what Project Ezrah provides for the community.
The partnership between Glatt Express and Project Ezrah has been strong over the years. Having been involved with Project Ezrah for a while, Secemski, like Krich, noticed that many of the people involved with the organization were from an older and established demographic. He realized that a lot of his friends and peers weren’t fully aware of Project Ezrah’s services and the impact it has on the community. The wheels started turning, and “I came up with the idea to introduce the next generation to Project Ezrah and the incredible work that they do,” he said.
A role model for what YLC seeks, Secemski “wanted to do anything possible to get involved with the organization,” so he approached Krich, who was excited by the concept. “We immediately got on the phone, and started working on our vision for the council,” said Krich.
Joining intergenerational forces, the current board is looking forward to mentoring YLC members for this initiative. “It’s a wonderful relationship for council members to forge with our current board members,” Krich noted, “as they might one day become board members themselves.” Prior board experience is not necessary. “As long as they have the passion and drive,” Secemski added, “it will be amazing.”
And so, the first of four targeted areas for the YLC is education, along with fundraising, job development and outreach. Council board members will act as shul “ambassadors,” learning and teaching about how Project Ezrah helps those in need. “It’s a great way to let future supporters really know what we do,” Krich said.
They will also work on organizing community programs, learning how to cultivate new donors through fundraising from within the community.
“One of the best ways to find employment is to network,” noted Krich. When it comes to job development, “it’s helpful for younger people to work together, and having a broad network is great.” YLC members are likely to encounter fellow peers who need the support. They may also come across other young professionals seeking entry-level positions who might otherwise not have known about Project Ezrah.
Outreach is designed for council members to act as liaisons or resources for those interested in the organization, or those in need of its services. Additionally, when Project Ezrah runs its annual dinner or Purim campaign, for example, they will serve as advocates within the shul to assist with those programs.
Krich believes that the impact of partnering with local stores and companies is significant. “By giving back, it helps tenfold,” she said. “The connection we have with Glatt Express is really special. They are unbelievably generous. Together, we’re able to offer a dignified and private way to help people with the basic need of food.” Local relationships help the greater community.
“We have our mission,” said Krich, “we’re ready to launch it, and we’re very excited!”
By Chaya Glaser